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Are family and friends the best childcare for your baby?

Are family and friends the best childcare for your baby?

If you’re lucky enough to have a willing family member or friend to look after your baby, and you’re happy to give them some control over childcare, this is a great low-cost and relaxed option.

Whether you need a couple of hours or a few days a week, these arrangements are generally much more flexible and informal than other forms of childcare, and the benefits start with the certainty that your child will not just be competently looked after, but will be loved and cherished by an adult who is an enduring part of his life.

But if the child-caring relationship is to satisfy all parties, you need to have full and frank discussions to establish parameters and responsibilities.

Decide if regular hours or days each week would work best for you both and, if so, draw up a timetable so everyone knows what’s expected each week. Include the detail – will your baby have tea before he comes home?

You also need to consider whether your friend or family member is to be paid. In most instances, any form of payment or support for looking after your child is likely to be taxable.

If you pay less than £11,000, it’s likely that tax won’t apply – but this is a complicated issue, so if you decide to make this a paid role (in whatever shape or form that payment is), make an appointment with an accountant for expert advice.

Even if you’re not paying for these hours, it’s important that you’re a 100 per cent happy with the standard of care.

So, consider the safety aspects – if your mum is looking after your child in her house, then are her garden shears and tools out of reach, do the kitchen cupboards have childproof locks, and are the smoke alarms in good working order?

It’s also a good idea to establish your feelings on all the little things up front, so be clear about anything that’s important to you, from screen-time to how often your child gets a treat, whether naps are a priority, and if you want a phone call before Calpol is given.

If more than one set of family or friends are sharing the childcare, then it’s really helpful to have a get-together and decide on a common set of ground rules.

Set up a great arrangement

  • Whose house will the childcare take place in?
  • Who will provide and/or pay for everyday essentials such as food and nappies?
  • Will you provide a kitty for toys and/or days out?
  • Would it make sense to buy an additional car seat, pushchair or highchair, and who will pay for it?
  • How much notice will both parties give if there’s to be a change to your normal routine?
  • Will the arrangement continue as normal when your child is poorly?
  • Is your family member or friend happy to take your child to routine appointments or classes?

There’s a really useful family childcare agreement template at – use it to guide your discussion.

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